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I’ve always loved studying Psychology because it allows me to apply what I learn towards understanding myself, the people in my life, and human behavior in general. I became interested in the question of how children develop social competencies—skills that are integral to success in so many life areas yet are rarely explicitly taught. I naturally gained interest in autism, a disorder characterized in part by several social and emotional difficulties. My research at SFU explored how individuals with and without autism understand emotions in themselves and others, and how different people express emotions verbally and nonverbally in social settings. I decided to pursue advanced degrees in Educational Psychology because I wanted to study in a heavily research-focused program, but with opportunities to conduct practical research in educational and other applied settings.
Please tell us how you first discovered your program.
I worked with an educational psychologist at Washington State University for a short period of time who completed his degrees at SFU, and he recommended that I look into this program. The rest is history!
Please tell us why you chose the Faculty of Education at SFU for your studies.
I was accepted into several Educational Psychology programs in the U.S. and Canada but felt that SFU would provide me with the best opportunities, resources, and training to support my career goals. The first time I visited, I fell in love with the area. SFU is such a beautiful campus and Vancouver has so much to offer.
Who is a faculty member you have enjoyed working with and why?
I worked closely with my supervisor, Dr. Birmingham, at SFU. Her main research interests are in social attention, and how people with and without autism orient their attention towards and perceive social and non-social information in their environment. She was an invaluable mentor for me, providing helpful guidance and honest criticism on my work, while also allowing me the freedom to pursue my unique research interests. I also had the privilege to work with Drs. Maureen Hoskyn, Lucy LeMare, and John Nesbit in various capacities. There are truly so many talented and supportive faculty in the Educational Psychology program that shaped my development at SFU
What inspires you to learn and continue your education?
I can’t imagine a career path that doesn’t involve life-long learning and intellectual stimulation. The pursuit of knowledge through research, and the power of science to positively impact society, continues to thrill me.
What would you say to prospective students who are considering graduate school in the Faculty of Education?
In my experience in SFU’s Faculty of Education, I have found there to be an unprecedented number of opportunities and resources available to you as graduate students. Between research and teaching assistantships, grants for conference travel, scholarships, funding for special student projects, and opportunities to participate in professional development and community service activities, I was able to live in Vancouver comfortably and use my time wisely towards initiatives that benefited my career goals. And with such a large and diverse faculty, you’ll have opportunities to network and form relationships with a multitude of wonderful faculty, students, and staff to fully explore your research and professional interests.
Is there anything else you wish to share?
After leaving SFU in 2018, I worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Yale School of Medicine where I continued to research autism in a clinical neuroscience lab. In 2021, I begin working as a medical writer at a Medical Communications agency called The Scienomics Group. We work on contract with companies that develop medical products such as drugs, medical devices, and diagnostic tests. My agency specializes in developing educational content from clinical trials and other scientific research to educate healthcare providers about latest innovations in standard of care for various disease areas, novel treatments, and best practices for diagnostics and disease monitoring.
What I’ve discovered since leaving SFU in 2018, is that PhDs are in high-demand and that having an advanced degree opens doors for interesting career paths in academic, government, and industry settings. I found a career that combines my interests in science and medicine, where I get to utilize my training in Educational Psychology to develop high quality educational content that has real-world impact on healthcare. I’ll always be grateful for the transformative experiences I had at SFU that have, and will continue, to shape my career.